Sizing in Knitting Patterns

talcott berrocoEvery time I write a garment pattern, I think a lot about sizing. Not just the number of sizes to offer and the physical/mathematical work of making the pattern for various sizes, but also more generally about the proper size the garment should be for people of particular sizes.

When I first started out I thought if a pattern said its chest measurement and mine were the same that must be the right size for me. In some cases that’s right, but in others you don’t want a piece of knitting that is your exact same size. A bulky sweater, for instance, or even just a cardigan that’s meant to be worn over another piece of clothing, needs to be bigger than you are to fit well and comfortably.

There are standards for the sizes of people you will find within a given clothing size, but that does nothing to account for ease, which is the fancy term for that extra space that makes a sweater more comfortable. And it’s not always easy to tell the amount of ease that ought to be found in a particular garment for the best fit.

Yarn companies and book publishers are getting better about this. Interweave Knits, for example, has its galleries, which show some garments from the magazine on a range of people or offer tips for customization. I’ve read two books recently that suggested how much ease you should have when choosing what size to knit, and the recent Berroco newsletter took on the issue with its presentation of the free pattern Talcott, which is an oversized sweater worked in a cotton/linen yarn (Berroco Linsey, by the way, which is an absolutely beautiful yarn — great to knit with, soft, gorgeous colors…).

Berroco says that its patterns are always the same garment size even if the measurements vary. So if you know you usually knit a medium, you’ll still want to knit a medium in an oversized pattern to get the proper amount of ease.

That makes a lot of sense, and actually is probably the way most people handle it.

How do you decide which size of a project to make? Any ease horror stories? Spill it!

[Photo by Berroco.]

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